Happy Friday readers!! I am so excited to welcome the lovely and kind, Cassandra Grafton to Austenesque Reviews (for her first official visit!) You may have heard that Cassandra’s newest book – A Quest For Mr. Darcy released YESTERDAY! Woot woot! And we thought it would be fun to sit down and have a little chat about her writing and her new release! We hope you enjoy!
Hi Cassandra! Thank you so much for this lovely visit to Austenesque Reviews! As you well-know from my reviews and frequent mentions, I am an ardent admirer of your novels – the introspective A Fair Prospect Trilogy and the inventive The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, which you co-wrote with Ada Bright! I am so excited to have you here in celebration of your new release, A Quest for Mr. Darcy!
I understand A Quest for Mr. Darcy is a Pride and Prejudice variation that begins soon after Mr. Darcy returns from Kent and realizes he cannot forget Elizabeth Bennet, even though she’s rejected him…and so he plans to do something a little drastic! I always love hearing how authors come up with their ideas, do you mind sharing your inspiration behind this new variation?
It’s so lovely to be here, Meredith, and I’m delighted to talk about the origins of my new story!
It’s been a long time in finishing, because I had the initial idea back in 2010. It was put aside after I started it, and I only picked up my pen to continue back in the autumn of last year.
The inspiration first came to me when I was lying on a beach (though there’s no beach in the story) sunbathing (ditto) in Portugal (nope) and, much to my husband’s mild annoyance, I then spent the next couple of hours lying still for a few minutes, then sitting up suddenly and grabbing my pencil and notebook. Then, I’d lie down again only to sit up soon after to add more notes, and so it continued!
Finding the inspiration for a story set in autumnal Derbyshire on a beach in Portugal is more logical than it first sounds. I had just finished writing A Fair Prospect, which had been completed only two months’ earlier, and my mind hadn’t quite let go of the story or the characters. Lying on the beach relaxing, away from the day job and everyday cares, it is unsurprising Darcy and Elizabeth decided to pay me a visit!
In A Fair Prospect, as I’m sure you recall, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves thrown into each other’s path, no matter where they move to: Kent, London or Bath. There is a scene whereby Elizabeth jokes that she is likely to return home to Longbourn to find her father has decided to move them to Derbyshire, and that was the idea that took shape as I lay on the beach!
This initial inspiration remained intact until about two years ago. I had recently re-read Pride & Prejudice, and had been struck with the scene where Lady Lucas is speculating with Mrs Bennet about the rumours surrounding the number of ladies and gentlemen Mr Bingley will bring to the Meryton assembly.
Here it is:
‘Lady Lucas quieted her (Mrs Bennet’s) fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly. The girls grieved over such a number of ladies; but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing that instead of twelve, he had brought only six with him from London, his five sisters and a cousin.’
Volume I, Chapter 3
The second report of numbers is possibly hearsay as well, rather than fact, but what if it wasn’t? This statement is made after he has returned from London with his guests, so is there a chance it might be accurate?
I decided, for this story, I would take it to be so, and I brought into the mix Bingley’s having three younger half-sisters (the cousin being the lady who looked after them) in addition to Caroline Bingley and Mrs Hurst.
I get a lot of enjoyment from throwing hurdles in Darcy’s way, so I took these two ideas, set him on his ‘quest’ to do his duty, and then began making it as challenging as possible for the lovely man to stay steady to his purpose!
Oh, I love seeing Darcy facing some obstacles! And I like the idea of a larger Bingley family, that sounds interesting. I wonder if more than one of them will have eyes for Mr. Darcy! I think it is so great that you remember exactly when and where the idea came to you. 🙂 In A Fair Prospect I loved how you told parts of the story from both Darcy and Elizabeth’s point-of-view and spent a lot of time in their heads. Do we see some more of that in A Quest for Mr. Darcy?
Yes and no! I’m not sure how the Darcy and Elizabeth in A Fair Prospect became quite so introspective. It was one of those things that simply evolved once I’d started writing. Their emotions immediately after the first proposal must have been so raw, and I wanted to reflect that for both of them, and because that’s where the story kicked off, it fed how the rest of it was told.
This new story is told from Darcy’s point-of-view initially, and then it alternates between him and Elizabeth. When the main story commences, we’re almost 18 months on from the failed proposal, so they’re in a different place.
I have tried to deliver a balance for the reader between becoming immersed enough in the characters’ emotions to empathise with their thoughts and feelings, and the characters not becoming too internalised. I hope it works!
I bet it does, Cassandra! A balance between the two sounds perfect. 🙂 I think we all love to spend some time in Darcy’s head, so that’s great to see the bulk of your story from his point-of-view! What are some of the challenges you faced while writing this story? What parts came to you easily?
Ah, challenges! The main one was logistical, in trying to keep up with the twice-weekly posting schedule. I am one of the world’s biggest procrastinators, so I set myself that target to make me knuckle down and get the story written. I did have times when I missed the schedule, but the readers were incredibly patient and supportive.
Beyond that, the challenge was to keep the separate threads of the story running, but intersecting. I love adding some mystery to the romance, but it can get a bit complicated, and merging the threads at the appropriate time was tricky. I’m still not sure if I managed it successfully!
The part that came easiest to me was the dialogue throughout the story. I love it when characters take hold of their role and begin to speak for themselves! There are a few original characters in this story, and two of them in particular had a habit of hijacking a scene in this way!
Ooohhh! Everything you are saying makes me want to read this story more and more!! I love original characters and it is always fun when they steal the scene or cause some unexpected trouble! Super excited to meet these new characters of yours, Cassandra! Let’s do something fun now and switch it up with some Quickfire Questions!
What is one of your favorite Jane Austen quotes? Oh, so many to choose from! This always makes me laugh: Next week (I) shall begin operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend – from a letter to Cassandra
If you could travel back in time and meet Jane Austen at a specific time in her life, what time would you choose? 1803! She was 27, living in Bath and had drafted three novels but not yet published them. It is the age she is in The Particular Charm and we had so much fun ‘meeting’ her then! I’d just love to know if we got anything ‘right’!
Which Jane Austen character do you identify best with? Hmm, not too sure! In many ways, Anne Elliot, I suppose. Persuasion has become my favourite Austen novel in recent years. I was given a second chance at happiness in love, and 26 years of marriage later, I could not feel more blessed.
What is one of your favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice? I love when Darcy turns up at Pemberley and surprises Elizabeth! I’m talking ‘book’ scene here, and I do love that the 1980 version of P&P captured this so well, setting their encounter in the gorgeous gardens at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire.
From your own novels what is one of your favorite scenes? I have a favourite scene in A Quest for Mr Darcy, which was written a few years ago. It’s when Darcy and Elizabeth meet for the first time in this story, but I can’t say any more than that or it will spoil it!
What do you love most about Pride and Prejudice? It’s joy! I am a fair-weather reader (and film watcher). I love to close the last page of a book with a happy smile on my face, and P&P never fails to deliver.
What is your “truth universally acknowledged?” That a world without Jane Austen’s works would be a much poorer place.
If you were to meet Jane Austen, what would you like to hear her say? My name! I wish I could hear her call me her friend.
Oh, that was so lovely, Cassandra! Terrific answers! I especially love your “truth universally acknowledged!” Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, Cassandra, I am so happy to have you as my guest on Austenesque Reviews today!
Connect with Cassandra
Today Cassandra brings a very lovely prize pack for me to give away to one lucky, lucky winner!
This generous prize pack includes:
- One copy of A Quest for Mr Darcy (ebook or paperback)
An ‘I’d Rather be at Pemberley’ mirror
A set of Pride & Prejudice quote pencils
A Mr Darcy miniature portrait and easel stand
A set of 20 Jane Austen bookplates
- An ‘I’d Rather be at Pemberley’ tote bag
To enter this giveaway, leave a question, a comment, or some love for Cassandra below!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Cassandra!
- This giveaway ends June 30th!